Delivering the introduction for the closing panel on day one of CasinoBeats Malta Digital, moderator and iGEN founder Enrico Bradamante kicked things off with a discussion of the impact COVID-19 has had on the industry.
“Over the COVID pandemic if we look at what has happened in regulated markets in Europe we have seen regulators take steps to curb online gaming. This is the case even in jurisdictions that have set the bar high in terms of player protection and once again our industry is in the spotlight for negative reasons,” it was asserted.
Taking part in a ‘Reputation Management for the igaming Sector’ panel, Scott Longley, CEO of Clear Concise Media, moved the conversation along to assess the questions that the title poses: “The debate in the UK has worsened over the years. We have had a debate within the public about the proliferation of gambling and online gambling and the extent to which that may or may not have induced a certain amount of gambling harms.
“The issue now is that the gambling industry, and the online industry, finds itself to be friendless when it comes to politicians and legislature. There has been a tide of anti-gambling rhetoric and measures that has been introduced which has made it a very negative environment for operators.
“It has to be said that at the moment the industry is losing the battle. It looks like we will have further harsher measures introduced likely sooner rather than later. What that suggests is that the pendulum swing will be replicated around Europe in a negative way for gambling.”
These thoughts were echoed by Russel Mifsud, director and gaming Lead, KPMG Malta who added: “Bad news tends to move faster and it only takes one operator to fall foul of regulators to dampen the industry as a whole.
“We are essentially dealing with an industry that is considered taboo and that is something difficult to change. As we’ve seen in jurisdictions, coupled with COVID, restrictions were always going to get tighter.
“The industry has always approached things in an isolated way, but it’s time where operators come together. You can never change the entire industry, but if you’re able to combine the forward looking visions then that will start to crowd out some of the cowboys.”
Joining Longley and Mifsud on the Gaming Malta-sponsored panel, which forms part of the Working in Malta track at the event, was James Scicluna, partner at WH Partners and Gaming Consultant.
Discussing the impact of the UK on the rest of Europe, Scicluna commented: “What we see in Europe to a large extent is differing approaches. It is true that the UK plays an important role in the sense that others look to the UK in terms of policy making and legislating.
“What has happened in the UK is that this has become a public health issue. To what extent will that be followed across Europe? Well you have Sweden which has gone that way and it’s not unreasonable to think that certain other jurisdictions might follow it through, maybe not to the same extent, but gambling as a health issue has come to the forefront of the regulator mindset.”
Industry veteran George Debrincat looked to the past in search of an answer for the industry’s future. He called back to his personal experiences, concluding: “Gaming already had a bad reputation as an industry and it goes back to the land-based and to casino times. I remember when I first joined, the reaction of my friends was ‘oh god, you are going into gaming’, so it was already taboo at that time.
“We’ve managed to survive through all the ups and downs and we’ve created a reputation for ourselves and I think it’s a positive one. I think basically we have to look over the years. The industry has been fragmented and everyone has gone on their own. I think we need to discipline ourselves as an industry, gather around a table and try to hammer out something for the industry to present it better in negotiations with the regulatory bodies.”
CasinoBeats Malta Digital, delivered in association with Gaming Malta, takes place from 30 June to 2 July 2020 and features 40 virtual exhibitors, numerous networking opportunities, 130 leading speakers, and countless business opportunities for 3,000 senior decision-makers from operators, suppliers, affiliates and other industry stakeholders.
Alongside the exhibition, networking and conference, all delegates also gain access to the full range of entertainment on offer, including free-play slots, daily competitions and a selection of prizes such as iPads and cash.
Find full details of CasinoBeats Malta Digital, including information about how to register and the discounts available on company group passes, at the event’s official website: https://sbcevents.com/casinobeats-malta-digital/